Draught Diversions: Happy Anniversary Conclave, Cypress, Czig, & Icarus

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Over the past couple of weeks, a few New Jersey breweries celebrated anniversaries. I’ve visited one of them (multiple times), and have had beer from all four. As it works out, of the four, the brewery I’ve visited the most often is also the first alphabetically, so I’ll go down that path and start off with Conclave Brewing.

Little Creature – Grisette (L) Intuitive Function – IPA – Imperial / Double (R)

I wrote about Conclave Brewing last fall and I’ve visited a few times since then. The trend of excellence continues – from fantastic IPAs, to robust, flavorful dark ales (stouts, porters, brown ales) to Belgian inspired ales, everything is excellent. A skim through the Mid Alantic states forums of Beer Advocate will often show the thread dedicated to Conclave one of the more active and praise for the brewery throughout that sub forum.

When I visited this past weekend, Conclave had just released their Third Anniversary Ale, a Double / Imperial IPA they called Intuitive Function. Like all of the IPAs I’ve had from them since becoming an IPA convert, this beer is filled with flavor. Brimming with wonderful hops that evoke citrus and melon, the finish gives a really nice hop bit that remains … without the bitterness.

What has been promising is that Conclave has been releasing cans more regularly over the past year. Let’s hope that frequency increases so more folks can enjoy their beers.

Gong down the alphabet, Cypress Brewing in Edison celebrated their third anniversary as well. I’ll go into more history about the brewery after I eventually visit them and do a full write-up, but at minimum, their beers have a fairly solid reputation in the state. Their capacity has been increasing over the three years they’ve been selling their beers – cans are getting into stores through distribution more regularly. They’ve collaborated with both Bolero Snort and Icarus Brewing.

The two beers I had from them were delicious, a Vanilla Porter that has since been re-worked and a Brown Ale. I recall having those beers at the 2016 Garden State Brewfest (the last one, sadly) and that porter being one of only two beers of which I wanted 2nd and 3rd pours.

Cypress is located in a fairly easy to find location in the big Raritan Center industrial park in Edison, NJ. Hopefully in the next couple of months I’ll be able to make my way to get down the “fun” highway of Route 287 to the brewery.

Another brewery to recently (June) celebrate an anniversary is Czig Meister in Hackettstown. I wrote about them in January after visiting them as part of my birthday brewery tour. I visited the brewery again a couple of months later for the second annual Stout Fest and was even more impressed. In two years, Czig Meister has made a big name for themselves in terms of respect for their beers and how widely they’ve been distributing. I see more and more of their cans and bottles every week and see good things about the beer they are brewing. That’s a pretty good combination, I think – availability and repuation.

Few breweries in New Jersey over the last half decade have made as quick and big an impact as has Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, NJ. Lakewood is a large NJ Shore community and Icarus is helping to make the NJ Shore (along with Carton Brewing and Kane Brewing) a destination for finely crafted beer. This past Saturday, Icarus celebrated one year with a One Year Canniversary

Like Cypress Brewing, I only had their beers at a beer festival, The Bridgewater Beerfest back in May, but boy howdy was I impressed. As I said in that post, I found myself getting 2nd and 3rd pours of their IPA, DDH Not a Schooner. In less than a year Icarus has been dropping their cans as far north as where I live (about 70 miles away). That said, the cans go extremely fast – my favorite beer store generally sells out of their Icarus stock within hours of getting it delivered. Their flagship (no pun intended) beer is Yacht Juice a New England IPA

I know a few other breweries likely hit milestones over the past couple of months, but honestly, keeping up with all of them is a pretty big task especially since this is more of a hobby for me and there are so many in South Jersey that I’ve yet to visit or sample. Bottom line…New Jersey really is growing a strong brewing reputation.

Beer Review: The Alchemist’s Crusher

Name: Crusher
Brewing Company: The Alchemist
Location: Stowe, VT
Style: IPA – Imperial / Double
ABV: 8%
IBU: 110

From the back of the can:

Crusher is an American Double India Pale Ale that I started making years ago at the old pub. Hop heads were constantly asking for more hops. So in the words of Frank Zappa, “Did you say want some more? Well, here’s some more.”

While I enjoy Hops with the rest of them, I still try to maintain some semblance of balance and drinkability. This beer is oozing with hop flavor and aroma with a very dry finish. Enjoy responsibly, this one can sneak up on you.

Fans of small, independent breweries have known of the legendary Alchemist for years. It is basically the brewery that helped to give birth to the popular New England IPA style of beer. Brewer/owner John Kimmich’s most famous creation, Heady Topper, is one of those whale beers that every beer geek wants to try at least once and I was fortunate enough to share a can last Fourth of July with a friend. Fast forward a year and another friend happened to have just visited Vermont and he brought back some goodies from the Alchemist, including this Double IPA – Crusher.

You’ll notice there’s no glass of beer in the photo – the Alchemist recommends drinking most of their beers directly from the can, which I did with this beer. The 16oz can opens and out drifts an aroma of hops that is both different than other IPAs I’ve experienced, yet similar, but just more of it, if that makes sense.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what to expect, but that first sip is a bombastic assault of hops flavor. Crusher’s hop profile is a banging bouquet of deliciousness, one of the most perfectly citrusy hopped profiles I’ve ever had in a beer. I couldn’t believe what a cornucopia of flavors was in just a sip of the beer so, of course, I took another taste, though more than a sip. I let the beer sit in my mouth a bit to get the full flavor and my goodness does this beer do so many things perfectly well. I wanted to drink this one quickly because it was so delicious, but I didn’t want it to be gone quickly so I didn’t guzzle it.

Like a lot of DIPAs, this beer has a maltiness that balances out the hops very well. Fortunately, the bitterness of the hops is not the least bit cloying. Rather, the bitterness for me was absolutely perfect. To that point, I find it almost impossible to believe the IBU of this beer is 110, the highest IBU of any beer I’ve ever consumed and enjoyed. Perhaps the most standout element of this beer is how sweet it is compared to many other IPAs and DIPAs I’ve had. That is a virtue/feature and not a problem/bug.

What makes this such a wonderful beer is how elegant it is – sure there’s a lot going on in the hop profile, but beyond that, it is a fairly straight-forward DIPA but one crafted in an almost magical mix of water, hops, yeast, and malt.

Like the description above points out, while the name may be “Crusher” and the lovely taste may encourage you to drink a few pints of this beer in quick succession, the ABV of 8% will make you realize quite quickly that taking your time is more prudent. Especially because the beer is so damned delicious, you don’t want it to be gone too fast.

Although Heady Topper (which I had and loved) and Focal Banger (which I had and didn’t like as much) are the two beers the Alchemist is better known for producing, I thought Crusher was better than both and a nearly perfect beer in its own right. This is a beer that lives up to the hype surrounding the brewery and brewer who created the beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.75-star rating

Can Art courtesy of MyBeerBuzz and The Alchemist

Beer Review: Flying Fish Brewing’s Onshore Lager

Name: Onshore Lager
Brewing Company: Flying Fish Brewing Company
Location: Somerdale, NJ
Style: Lager – American Light
Style: 4.9%

From the beer’s description on Flying Fish Brewing’s Special Page dedicated to the beer:

Our home is surrounded by a breathtaking stretch of ocean and beautiful waterways, and ONSHORE LAGER is our tribute to that environment. Brewed without adjuncts, this beer pours a pure, golden color, and German-style hops provide a crisp, clean finish. The employees of Flying Fish are just like you. They enjoy the great outdoors with family and friends, and they want to ensure the beauty endures for generations to come. That’s why Flying Fish is not only committed to brewing high quality beers, but we also practice sustainability and care for the environment throughout the process. 463 solar panels help with our electricity needs, 19 solar tubes in our warehouse reduce the need for artificial lighting, recaptured steam in the brewing process minimizes water waste, and rain gardens on site prevent erosion. And spent grains? They go to local farms with happy cows.

Light Lager is perhaps the most popular style of beer in America. Conversely, it is probably the most maligned style in the craft beer world. The brewery once out of Saint Louis and the brewery out of Colorado whose Light Lagers are the two most popular beers in the world. Though popular, those two beers are absent of flavor, or at least *good* flavor. But like almost any style of beer, when done well, the beer can taste very good.

This brings me to Onshore Lager from one of New Jersey’s oldest independent breweries and the largest in the state, Flying Fish Brewing Company. This beer is a new (first available in June 2018) year-round offering from Flying Fish.

After popping the can, the beer pours a bright golden yellow into the glass with a nice fluffy head. This is a much brighter beer than some of the macro-produced light beers people are accustomed to seeing, it is quite inviting. The first sip was more than I expected, the malts and crispness of the lager come through really nicely. Even though this is a light lager with an ABV of 4.9%, the beer still as ample flavor and a decent body. Light Lagers are a style I almost never get, go out of my way to try, and I’ll even avoid them if possible. This beer, on the other hand, this is a good beer to always keep in the cooler, whether poolside, to enjoy after yardwork, or tailgating. I’ll be honest two days after I had the first one from the six pack, I had another and enjoyed it even more.

Over the past couple of years, there has been a movement in the craft beer world back to low ABV lagers: pilsners, light lagers, Helles Lagers. Firestone Walker’s simply named Lager is a great example, as a I mentioned recently and Founders Solid Gold seems to be doing well. Far be it from NJ’s elder states-brewer to stray from this trend, as this beer was first announced back in February and I was thinking back in May it might be a good crushable summer beer. I was more than pleasantly surprised with the full flavor of this beer. I’ll admit that I hoped it might lean more towards a Helles Lager style, and there’s a bit of that bready/grainy/toasty element to the beer, but much more subtle than a straight-up Helles Lager like Firestone’s Lager or Carton’s This Town. Suffice it to say, Onshore Lager is an excellent beer and like Bell’s Amber Ale, which I featured a few weeks back, is a perfect beer to ease folks wary of craft beer over to the craft beer/Independent Beer world.

It is really great to see a brewery that has been such a mainstay in New Jersey continue to push new beers regularly not even including the recently concluded Exit Series. Onshore Lager is about the sixth new beer Flying Fish has introduced in the last six months alone. What I think would be great is for them to offer a can mixed pack like many breweries are doing – throw a few of these, a few of their summer staple Farmhouse Summer Ale and Daylight Savings IPA together and you’d have a really solid mix of beers for a Summer variety pack.

As reported in a few online beer sites, including Brewbound: “a portion of the sales of Onshore Lager will go to New Jersey-based Clean Ocean Action, an organization that’s dedicated to the quality of the marine waters off the New Jersey coast.” So, two great combinations – a great beer and a great cause. If you see some Onshore Lager, pick up a six pack to share, or keep in the fridge for yourself.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer: Lager Jack (Level 12)

Lager Jack (Level 12)

After a long day, what better way to kick back than with a crisp and refreshing lager? You’re already feeling more relaxed, aren’t you?. That’s 60 different Lagers!.

 

Draught Diversions: June 2018 Six Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

June…the start of summer and the prevalence of lighter, more “crushable beers. Light lagers, Helles Lagers, Pilsners, Shandys/Radlers, Wheat bears, maybe some beers with a fruit component. All beers to enjoy by the pool, outside lounging about, or just after finishing yard work.

June’s beers included quite a few of these, but probably the least number of New Jersey beers in a month since I started this blog. Of course I did manage to squeeze in one (in addition to visiting Fort Nonsense the first Saturday in June).

UFO Pink Lemonade Shandy (Harpoon Brewery) Shandy / Radler – 2.50 bottle Caps on untappd

Not a good start to June with this one

Harpoon is one of the great American Craft breweries and I’ve enjoyed many beers in their portfolio over the years. A couple of years back, they spun off their UFO beers into a separate line, almost like Stone did with Arrogant Bastard. I’ve liked the core UFO beers (Hefeweizen, White, and Raspberry), but this one is definitely not for me. I’m not a fan of Pink Lemonade in general and mixed in with beer, I like it even less. This beer is one reason the mixed six pack is great, I didn’t have to get a full six pack just to try this beer.

Firestone Lager (Firestone Walker Brewing Company) Lager – Helles – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one.

Firestone Walker is jumping on the bandwagon of Light Craft Lagers, or rather the bandwagon is catching up with them. This is a beer the brewery produced many years ago, but only recently with the craft market wanting the light lagers, has this beer been released on a larger level. I’ve really come to enjoy Helles Lagers over the past year and this is a really nice example of the style: refreshing, delicious, crushable, and perfect for cooler filling. (I also had their flagship IPA Union Jack for the first time this month and loved it.)

Nimble Giant (Tröegs Brewing) IPA – Imperial / Double 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Tröegs seems to make an appearance here regularly and this is their big, once-per-year double IPA release. A year ago, I would have avoided this one. This is a fantastic IPA with citrus notes and a little piney-ness. The hop level is high, but it isn’t all that bitter. A bright, potent IPA that is another must have from Tröegs.

Pooltime Ale Pale Wheat Ale (Bell’s Brewery) – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I may get slack for saying this, but I think I enjoy Pooltime more than Oberon

I’ve been quite excited about Bell’s entry into NJ distribution. Two-Hearted (IPA) is a Great American beer, but this sweet wheat ale is slightly under the radar. Pooltime Ale is *almost* a Witbier with some of the Belgian notes, but not quite. The additional of “Michigan Cherries” to the base beer make for a supremely refreshing all that is perfect for what it says it is right on the can – a pooltime (or poolside) summer ale. This is a new summer favorite for me.

Kölsch (Sierra Nevada Brewing) – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

Always nice to see a selection of Sierra Nevada beers when you arrive at a party

Sierra Nevada needs no introduction to the craft beer world. In addition to their iconic Pale Ale, Sierra distributes variety seasonal 12 packs and this spring/summer, one of the beers included is a relabeled classic from their line-up: a Kölsch. Kölsch ales are German-style ales that are light and easy drinking. In other words, perfect for warm weather. I enjoyed the heck out of this beer and could see grabbing a six for the cooler I keep by my pool.

Dune Fruit (Carton Brewing Company) Berliner Weisse 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

I had this on draft, but the beer is available in NJ stores in cans

June seems to be all about Berliner Weisses here at the Tap Takeover, but damn are they great ales for warm weather. Augie Carton and his cadre of brewers delivered a very tasty one in this take on the classic German style. The fruit is fairly subtle compared to some other Berliner Weisses I’ve had, but pears don’t quite explode with flavors the way raspberries do, for example. This one hit the spot perfectly.

Honorable mention to an annual Summer Favorite: Sierra Nevada Summerfest. This is Sierra’s take on the Czech pilsner and is always a welcome beer in the summer.